A view from a pothole

So, all the sleepy Rip Van Winkles in Glenwood and Carbondale are waking up all blinky and wondering, “What’s up with this gas fracking anyway?”

Coalition organizing Glenwood, Four Mile to oppose gas drilling
Thompson Divide Coalition draws a receptive crowd

Or could it just be Heather McGregor’s cluelessness seeping into the story? Maybe she ought to bone up on GarCo gas drilling in The Paper’s archives to cover the six years she was away from journalism. Or she could save herself some time and drive through western Garfield County – at night. But I’ll give her credit for her willingness to learn now that the industry has its sites on Thompson Divide, which is more like her back yard, than say, Silt.

To some, Silt is just a speed trap with potholes. When it comes to gas drilling, I know it has been easier for the folks up valley to look the other way. Sometimes it’s easier for me to look the other way, and I live here. Eventually you can’t look away anymore, because it’s everywhere you look. If I had a dollar for every time someone said, “If you don’t like gas drilling why don’t you move?” – well – I would have moved. Anyway those people, I get.

The ones who get to me are those who say, “How could you let this happen?” Time to whip off those rose-colored glasses, people. Gas companies have a way of sneaking in the back door when no one is paying attention. And there are plenty of people in strategic government and political positions who are willing to look the other way.

To be fair we have been living with the impacts of gas drilling in Silt since 2003, so I am a bit of a gaslander snob. Reading the article I got this vision of doe-eyed newbies. I can’t even remember what their kind of wide-eyed innocence feels like. All I have left after nearly a decade of the industry’s PSYOPs are my own jaded observations.

First of all, McGregor seemed impressed with the number of people who showed up. Thirty people? The RSPN can draw more than thirty people to a business meeting – which is not to imply RSPN business meetings are boring – just sayin … they will need to bump up those numbers.

“When you talk about truck traffic, boy, Glenwood will be at the hub. All of these trucks will originate from I-70 and come across the bridge into Glenwood Springs,” said Judy Fox-Perry, secretary of the Carbondale-based Thompson Divide Coalition.

I’ll see her “boy” and raise it to “boy howdy”. Visualize a constant stream of hundreds of pickups, plus dozens of water trucks, repair trucks, tractor trailers hauling heavy equipment and hazardous materials. They will work around existing traffic patterns to avoid heavy traffic times, which seems like a good idea. Except the result will be non-stop “truck traffic” during the day, all day with no let up. Ever. Not even weekends. And it’s not just the traffic, there will be diesel smog, too.

“Are our waters going to get polluted?” asked John Traul, a Four Mile resident.

Yes. See the map. How many creeks are in the drilling area? Count them. There are five.

Common sense says even if they built a Target store up there some pollution would occur. Natural gas drilling happens underground, where the water is. Perhaps Mr. Traul has never heard of the West Divide Creek seep. I recommend Journey of the Forsaken by Lisa Bracken. Reading her blog would also be a good way to get to know Encana, who might be moving into their neighborhood someday.

A better question would be: What should we do when our water gets polluted? Oh, he did ask that.

What would be the recourse, he asked, if Four Mile Creek or the water table underlying Four Mile neighborhoods were to become polluted?

That’s when things can get real dicey. The gas company will tell people that their water was polluted to begin with. They won’t be able to prove otherwise because water quality testing – and air quality monitoring – should begin before drilling commences. But that never happens because it’s expensive, so it’s next to impossible to convince municipal or county governments to pay for it. Government officials tend to see water quality testing and air quality monitoring as unfriendly to business. To hell with public health and the environment.

One thing is certain. The industry loathes negative publicity. People getting together, comparing notes, talking about the cumulative impacts of gas drilling, and then it’s a front page story in the paper. The industry hates that. The coalition should make friends with Heather McGregor. The Paper can give their cause the exposure it deserves. Provided of course the industry doesn’t get to McGregor and change her mind. The industry is good at changing people’s minds, especially in the media.

I am certainly no expert. I wouldn’t ask me for advice. I do know that public pressure won’t stop gas drilling. The people can delay or postpone it, but to my knowledge they have never succeeded in stopping it.

The issues involving natural gas drilling – leases, unitization, well-spacing, transportation, pipelines, etc. – are intentionally complicated to keep the public dazed and confused. It isn’t necessary to become an expert on all the issues, though now might be a good time to look into how we let this happen out here in western Garfield County.

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